My first baby, Cherith, was about 3 months old the day I realized sleep does not come naturally to a baby. I spent pretty much the entire day in the recliner, nursing my chubby little baby, because every time I stopped nursing her, she would wake up and cry. I knew she was very tired, but she just wouldn’t fall asleep like she had every other day of her life. I tried the baby swing, but rather than make her drowsy, it made her mad. I tried walking with her on my shoulder, but she only managed to give me a headache by screaming in my ear.
So there I sat, nursing the long hours of the day away. When you’re stuck in a quiet apartment, you have a lot of time to think, especially when you’re stuck in a recliner the entire day. But with all the thinking, I could not come up with a single reason why sleep was a problem or a single solution for this problem.
Lucky for me, I had access to two invaluable tools: a husband who loves to problem solve and a fantastic local library.
I visited the library and came home with Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Weissbluth. Seriously, one of THE best books out there for understanding the science of childhood sleep and getting some practical advice on how to teach your baby to sleep and continue to help your child through each sleep stage in their development.*
My husband (the king of spreadsheets – seriously, he makes one for everything) suggested I make a spreadsheet chart to keep track of Cherith’s schedule tendencies over the course of a week or two.
I was surprised that Cherith’s sleeping, eating, and awake times were not as haphazard as I thought. Since I used colors to fill in the chart, it was easy to see a pattern coming through. Knowing her natural schedule pattern was probably the biggest help to me as I tried to make sense of her sleep needs.
If you think you would benefit from keeping track of your baby’s tendencies, download the chart and give it a try.
Next time, I will elaborate on what an average normal schedule should look like for babies of different ages and stages and discuss methods for training your baby to put herself to sleep.
*Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child does encourage the “cry it out” method. If you prefer a gentler method, I would recommend The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantly. I also found this book invaluable for its charts and easy to grasp information on the basics of sleep. No matter what method you choose, I recommend reading both books, or at least skimming through them.
(For what it’s worth, I use a combination of these methods. I let them cry, but I listen to their cry. If it’s a whining/sleepy frustration, I let them go. When it turns to a real cry, I generally go in and cuddle them for a while to help them calm down, whisper calmly to them, and then put them back in bed.)